In first of sorts in India, a voter desirous of knowing the antecedents of his or her local MLA can now know it all for a meagre 10 rupees, on the very day the latter discloses the requisite information before the district election officer. The Gujarat Election Commission (GEC), has issued instructions to election officers across the state to make copies of nomination papers filed by the candidates along with the affidavits detailing their academic, financial and criminal backgrounds available to interested citizens for a minimal charge of Rs 10 apart from displaying the same at the notice board of the district election officers.
GEC has further asked the election officers to ensure that all these information are made available to people on the same day of filing the nomination papers and affidavits, to facilitate filing of counter affidavits opposing such declarations. "We want to ensure that the relevant information reaches to who-so-ever is interested in them at the right time. The EC is very keen to see that all these information are disseminated among the electorate properly," said Gujarat Chief Election Commissioner Vinod Babbar.
He said the commission has also asked the election officers to make these documents available to the other contestants apart from the local media along with counter affidavits if any filed against them.
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) a city-based civil society initiative working on the Right to Information Act (RTI) had earlier approached the GEC to ensure proactive disclosure of these information to empower the state electorate.
Responding to the request made by the organisation, the GEC in its circular highlighted the orders passed by the Supreme Court in this connection regarding the disclosure of personal information of the candidates on March 27, 2003, and subsequent orders made by the Election Commission in this regard.
Harinesh Pandya from MAGP welcomed the step, saying it would empower the electorate, as the relevant documents will now be available on the same day against the payment of a nominal fee. "Under the RTI, one had to pay at least Rs 2 per page for a photocopy of any coveted document. GEC has made things uniform for the electorate on one hand and also by ensuring that the information is disseminated on the same day. It will greatly help those, who would want to contend the declarations made by the candidates in their affidavits," he said.
He further said that in case, any one is denied information by the district election officers, one can approach the State Chief Election Officer
Ahmedabad, November 21, 2007
Express news service